- Myles Webster hearing, Nov. 15, 2012
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Wounded officer says he has a '100 percent' ID on shooter
MANCHESTER — Police officer Daniel Doherty Thursday walked to the witness box and faced the man accused of shooting him repeatedly last March.
Doherty testified in Hillsborough County Superior Court North that he is "100 percent sure" that Myles Webster fired the bullets that knocked him to the ground and caused serious injury to the lower half of his body.
Doherty was one of five people who testified at a motions hearing in advance of Myles Webster's scheduled December trial on charges of attempted murder, reckless conduct and robbery.
Doherty said he went to the West Side in response to a plainclothes officer's call for assistance. When he saw a man matching the description of a Hispanic male with puffy Afro and dark clothing, he got out of his cruiser and approached, calling to the man: "Police, show me your hands."
Doherty said the man ran and he gave chase, calling: "Stop, police, or something like that." Doherty said he called in the foot pursuit and continued the chase. As the man turned east on Wayne Street and Doherty followed, a bush ripped off his collar mike.
Doherty said he tried to retrieve it, but then realized he had gained on the man and was "close enough to tackle him." He braced himself to do so when the man turned around, with his hands at his waist. Doherty said he heard the gun racking and saw the gun come up. "I felt excruciating pain in my shin and heard the shot," said Doherty.
As he was falling backward, he was able to retrieve his weapon and returned fire. He said Webster, who he referred to only as "the defendant" was shooting as he moved forward from a distance of three to five feet and got within two to three feet of Doherty, who said he could see the shooter's face clearly. "I was lying on my back on the sidewalk," said Doherty, who fired back, aiming for the shooter's chest and head.
"I stopped shooting because the defendant ran south on the sidewalk," said Doherty.
Asked how sure he is that the man who shot him is the man he was chasing, Doherty responded: "One hundred percent."
During cross-examination, defense attorney Caroline Smith repeatedly asked Doherty about the shooter's clothing, which Doherty described only as "dark," prompting Smith to ask if it was possible that Doherty's injury was the reason he couldn't recall details about the shooter's clothing.
"I don't believe so," Doherty responded.
Smith said in a report taken at the Catholic Medical Center ER trauma room, Doherty described the shooter as heavy-set, while everyone else described Webster, 23, as slim. Doherty responded: "I don't recall what his build was."
Doherty's description of the shooter as Hispanic, with hair in a puffy ponytail, was also the description provided by two people who lived at 343 Rimmon St., which overlooks Rimmon and Wayne streets, where Doherty was shot. A woman parked near the corner gave the same description of the shooter and testified she saw Webster run past her vehicle with Doherty in pursuit. She said she later heard a commotion behind her and a shot, prompting her to drive away.
All three witnesses testified that they recognized Webster when they saw his picture on television or in the newspaper the following day.
Smith sought to convince Judge Gillian Abramson that the testimony of the witnesses "had been influenced by media accounts."
Smith contended the three civilians had only seconds to see the shooter and had not given a description of the shooter before seeing photos of Webster, who was arrested shortly after Doherty was shot.
She said there were discrepancies in the description of the shooter's clothing, some saying he was wearing a white T-shirt, others saying he was wearing a jacket with a white T-shirt and Doherty saying the shooter was wearing dark clothing.
But police Detective Patrick Houghton, who was one of the officers who captured Webster, said Webster had discarded several items of clothing, including a black T-shirt, in a Dubuque Street yard. He was wearing a white tank top when caught.
Houghton said Webster had also discarded a Glock handgun, which he described as having a distinctive square shape. Two of the other witnesses had also described the gun as having a square shape.
Change of venue?
Uniformed police officers, and some plainclothes officers, filled more than six rows of the courtroom during the morning testimony, during which Doherty made his first court appearance.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karen Gorham argued that all of the witnesses described the shooter as Hispanic-looking, about 5-foot-8, with bushy hair pulled back in a large ponytail.
She said all of them also said Webster looked slightly different in the mug shot photo and photos and video from his arraignment, when he wore his hair in a loose afro and/or wore orange jail clothing.
During the afternoon session, the defense argued for a change in venue, with anywhere but Manchester acceptable.
Smith said there was inflammatory media coverage of the shooting, Webster's criminal record, the risks of being a police officer, the community's supportive response to Doherty's injury and the relationship between community members and police.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin disputed the claim of inherent prejudice and said the fact that people hear about cases doesn't mean they can't be fair as jurors. While coverage "caused ripples and waves in the community," said Strelzin, those ripples and waves dissipate.
Judge Abramson said she will take the venue request under advisement. Among the other motions argued were a defense request to keep out details of Doherty's treatment at CMC, saying it could be prejudicial. Strelzin responded: "The more severe the injuries, the more likely the intention to kill."
The prosecution wants to present evidence of Webster's pending criminal matters in Massachusetts and that he had previously violated federal probation in Massachusetts, been returned to prison and was prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Gorham said: "The real issue is what the defendant thought could happen to him."
Defense attorney Robert Swales said information on pending issues is not relevant and the prosecution only wants to use the criminal history to persuade jurors that: "Webster is a very bad man ... and had a purpose to kill."
Swales also objected to allowing testimony from three witnesses who said Webster had made threats earlier in the day, claiming it was prompted. Strelzin responded that all statements are prompted because they are answers to questions.
Jury selection is scheduled for Dec. 3.
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Dale Vincent may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.